tv [untitled] October 28, 2012 9:30am-10:00am PDT
probation department. those individuals were on court summary probation which meant go home and sin no more. and if you do, you'll be back here to see us. and so, i think that once again, i go back to the fact that under the current system, because we have so many of those individuals who were once incarcerated at the state level, being pushed down to the counties, there's no room at the end in terms of the county jails. so misdemeanors aren't going to be sentenced to county jail but will be sentenced in community service or whatever. and for those individuals who do need some measure of control and supervision to deal about -- deal with their conviction problems, it's not going to
happen at the misdemeanor level. >> let me go to a couple of the questions from the audience. i've shared them with our district attorney. george, two questions there, one related to whether or not drug possession should be treated differently for adults than from juveniles. and then a question about back on track, whether or not that program would be positively or adversely affected by senator leno's proposal. >> yes, let me start with the first question concerning juveniles. i think juveniles definitely need to be treated differently, and certainly here in san francisco, we do. we very seldom -- in fact, i know for a fact we've not criminalized simple possession drugs. there's a lot of other vehicles we use to deal with juveniles before it ever gets to a prosecution for possession of drugs. and i think that there's some good reasons for that. i think that when we're talking
about juveniles, we should explore every possibility that we can to decriminalize juvenile behavior in order to provide them with an opportunity to correct their behavior and move on so they can get education and get employment and they can become a productive member of society. and generally the juveniles, again, that we deal with are not any different than the adults we deal with. these are juveniles that often come from homes where supervision of the home is either not there or is very lacking. there's really a significant lack of role model support so there are a lot of problems already. the juveniles that generally come to our attention already bring with themselves. the problem is there's still not enough funding, there is not enough vehicles to provide the services that are necessary, so that is a challenge for us, and
unfortunately, often the drug use, drug abuse and those other things do lead to serious crimes when they in fact do become involved in a different part of the process. the other question has to do with back and track. i don't see 1506 impacting negatively on back on track. in fact, the conversations in our office are today around how do we expand the program and back on track is a successful program and we've used a very small population. for those of you who are not familiar with back on track, it started where a first offense, possession of drugs for sales, the individual agreed to go through a process of training that included a partnership with goodwill industries and other partners, individuals were put through the program, they receive training in a variety of areas, and they were put on the track to get gainful
employment, and when they graduate from the program, their criminal record is expunged. there is a fair entry of judgment. we are now trying to explore, how do we take back on track and continue to move the envelope so that we include other offenses and other people, we believe it is a very successful program and quite frankly is a model i hope to expand. >> we've got a video message from senator leno we were going to play. is that right? is it ready to go? here we go. >> welcome, everyone, to the 2012 justice summit, i'm mark leno and so wish key be with you today but i'm attending to my legislative duties in sacramento. council, i thank you for your interest in criminal justice and all your energies and efforts on its behalf. we know this is an issue that is of great importance to the state of california and to the nation. of course we have the opportunity to yet again lead the way here in california.
we're offering a bill this year, s.b.-1506 which would redefine the crime of simple possession of a drug from felony to misdemeanor. there are 13 other states, and the federal government which already do this and in the 13 other states, we have the data that shows that we get better results, better outcomes, meaning safer communities, and surprisingly the states include not only the large eastern states of pennsylvania and new york, but also states like mississippi, south carolina, west virginia, wyoming, iowa, all of which use this mid deem charge rather than felony. and what we find in these 13 other states is that there are higher rates of drug treatment participation, lower rates of drug use, and even slightly lower rates of violent and property crime. so again, we can prove we can have safer communities.
and then of course there are the unintended consequences of a felony conviction. consequences that really can cause great damage to a young life for many decades out. the very three things that can keep someone successfully in his or her recovery, access to housing, education and employment are put farther out of reach because of a felony conviction, especially in a down economy, someone with a felony has great difficulty even accessing 5 a job that pays minimum wage. putting these felony convictions to a whole population of young people, we really perpetuate a chronic underclass which benefits none of us. and then of course there's the inequity in the criminal justice system. even though we can show that drug use rates are quite similar in all different ethnic communities and african-americans are 13 times
greater likelihood of being convicted of a felony of simple possession. then of course there's also the savings that we could experience, nonpartisan, independent legislative analyst office has determined that there would be $159 million annually of savings at the county level, plus another $65 million annually in savings at the state level. and our bill would direct a portion of that savings to drug treatment programs so that we can, like these 13 other states, have better outcomes, safer communities. i of course have to thank the sponsors of our bill, and we have a number of them, the h.l.u. which has been a champion and the drug policy alliance as well as the naacp. i also want to thank san francisco's district attorney george gascon who is at our
public hearing at the safety committee a couple weeks back. george was there to speak on behalf of the bill we were working on together but he proactively came for this bill, s.b. 1506, to say that he's been law enforcement for 30 years and bring back 30-year experience to this consideration of this bill, and he said this bill makes sense because drug treatment works and this is in spite of the fact we'll be battling the district attorneys along with many other arms of public safety. [laughter] >> we've got the data, we've got the facts and we know this will provide great benefit to our communities, to our neighborhoods, and to all of california. thank you for your support. [applause] >> tal, i want to go back to the question that marty posed
earlier, which is in effect this idea that in order to incentivize people making the decision to seek treatment that the fear of a felony conviction or possible state prison sentence could play a positive role. you talk to a lot of people charged with crimes who are trying to make the decision of what decision to make, what is the primary motivation you see coming from them. how do they decision make on dispositions related to drug possession as a felony? >> i think that for a lot of people it does have to be a personal decision and they have to come to it themselves. i don't think they necessarily are thinking about whether whether or not they'd be convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. i will also say that sometimes you'll meet someone in county jail and they're ready to get treatment, they're ready to get
help and because of the lack of resources, they have to sit in county jail and wait for a bed to open up or wait for there to be an opportunity for them to access treatment. and one of the things that this bill would do ideally would be to divert some of those resources that go into enforcement and put them into treatment outlets for people. so perhaps there wouldn't be that weight people have while they're incarcerated where they can lose hope or kind of slip back into their old ways of thinking. but from my experience, the longer someone is incarcerated, kind of the less incentive they have and the people who have been in and out of prison, it's almost like they've given up hope a long time ago, so if we can change that, if we can instill hope in people and if we can have access to treatment in a shorter time frame so there really can be treatment on demand, then i think you'll see different outcomes.
but then just warehousing people for extended periods of time based on my experience when i've met people, it doesn't seem to provide them with any more incentive to get treatment when they get out. they just come out institutionalized and worse off. >> ethan, i wanted to ask you, in the other states that you've seen valid measures go before the voters, were there particular arguments that were more compelling for others that you find anything really caught the public's support or imagination? >> well, you know, it's interesting. my organization drafted, put on the ballot proposition 36 back in 2000, and that included at the time doubling state funding for drug treatment by $120 million a year. we made the mistake of only putting it in there five years and eventually the lending was cut and saved taxpayers a huge amount of money, what we saw when we polled other states around the country on prop 36
-- because there are prop 36, because it prohibited incarceration the first two times somebody was arrested for possession if they did not have a criminal record, it was in fact a fairly substantial decriminalization statute in its own right. what we found was that even in southern states, florida, significant majorities, over 60%, believe that people who had an addiction should not be sent to jail the first or second time, jail or prison the first or second time that they were picked up on drug possession. so you saw that as sort of a moral notion and you also see the cost-savings argument. when people -- i could critically say, look, most drug treatment does not work most of the time for most of the people who pursue it. that said, dollar for dollar, person for person, drug treatment is a dramatically better investment than incarceration, right? you think about it. treatment is like quitting
cigarettes, right? people need multiple times and you don't know until you're on your deathbed. cigarettes are more addictive than other drugs and takes time. but i think people responded to some extent on a moral basis that it's just not right to put people behind bars for that and secondly on the cost savings piece. the third one was the utilization of law enforcement resources. we see that with marijuana and other drugs and by in large they say let the cops focus on real crime, predator crimes, violent crimes, not prioritize the simple ones. [applause] >> i want to give everyone on the panel one last chance to make any closing remarks. >> realignment was a good sign public sentiment has changed. the polls out there, the public wants accountability but sensible accountability, and i think 1506 gives us that. and i think the comment was
made in each of the economies but in fact what we found, when you have realignment, all 58 counties deciding what to do, if we just look at the incarceration rates across each of the counties, fresno, like county, population demographics to san francisco. and it's a law that impacts on a statewide basis is more sensible than leaving it up to each county because then you'll end up with 58 different styles and methods of criminal justice. >> tal? >> i'm the public defender and it's my job to push the envelope. it's one thing to talk about reducing possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors but i'm not sure that's going to change the color and
you're not ending the war on drugs. we need to think of at holistic play as a public-health problem. not as a rush also the people who are selling and people are selling a rock to a police officer pretending to be an addict. all those people need help. >> i think that have given my all for the cause. i will leave it to george to put the capper on it.
>> what is the sanction for opposing -- he is one of your members. >> he is and he is a valued member of the association. as an elected official, he is entitled to his own opinion. >> thank you. i have to say that, i want to think marty for coming here. he knew he was coming into this. i want to repeat. i am in the minority in the association. i think concerning this item, it is important for me and all of us to recognize there are ballot
points of view. if we're serious about developing solutions that work for all of us, we have to entertain those points of view and tried to reach consensus. that is the only one that we will create a workable, sustainable solutions. all we're doing is spinning our wheels. my reason for being here is because i truly have come to the conclusion that it is not only based on years on the ground operationally but years of working on development of public policy, working with state governments and justice and lower in corp. -- incarceration and working with other people. a variety of settings. i do not believe that incarceration has taken us where we need to be.
i believe the war on drugs has been a failure. when we institutionalize people over extended periods of time, we take low-level offenders in the early stages and harden them and we send them to the university of crime. by the time they get out of prison, they become a bigger social problem. where i come from, whether it is the [unintelligible] i am on the side of saying we need to reform our system and reduce the number of people we send to jail or prison. we need to reserve that space for people that are truly dangerous and have no way of fixing themselves. we have to realize there will be some people that will go to prison because the rest of us need to have some people in prison in order for us to be safe but that is a small
minority. there are many other solutions out there whether it is someone who has engaged in drugs or has a drug addiction. or engaging in some other low- level crime. every move away from a cursory those people in the early stages and deal with different forms of behavior modification, we're not only going to be a safer society but we are a more just society and we will spend more money in parks and schools and many others. [applause] >> i will give you the final word. >> i thought a person who was most provoking was marty. but it was [inaudible] i wanted to finish with this. i wanted to bring it back to what i think are three key
ethical -- the first one is this. i do not think that there is any legitimate basis in science, medicine, or any ethical code that i know of or the bible, for that matter for our criminal law tdistinguishing between those wo have alcohol and tobacco and people who put other substances in their body. there is no legitimate basis for distinguishing between the alcoholic on the one hand under criminal law and between the drug addict on the other. that is first. the second ethical point is i hope most of you agree with this. i do not believe that anybody should be punished simply for what we put into our own bodies absent harm to others. nobody deserves to be punished
for what we put in our bodies absent harm to others. hurt somebody, yes and not tell me your addiction was the excuse. we need to be regarded as sovereign over our minds and bodies. the criminal law should not be treating anyone as a criminal for what we put in here. when one is trying to pursue a particular public health or public safety objective, reducing the harm of drugs or whatever it might be. and when you have powerful evidence that a non-course of system can accomplish that public safety health objective as well or better than a course of system, when the portugal- like object of can accomplish that for better or lower cost, it is a matter of good public policy and a matter of ethics and morality. those three key moral points are
fundamental in the state in this country. thank you. >> in closing the program, i want to thank all of you for coming to the 2012 justice summit. one thing that has distinguished our work in what we have done at these summits is action. if you look at over the past nine years, we have the evidence to prove that. out of our first summit came the call to have a community based collaboration that helped use and families work together on a community-based level. we have developed the programs
for growth in our communities. out of the second summit came a call for better coordination of services and from that sprung the re-entry council. the official policy body. what we're looking to achieve this year is to make strides going forward particularly in the area of violence reduction and gangs. we have heard about the strategies today. we have seen the promise of law enforcement being able to work together with community-based organizations dedicated to violence reduction. this is possible but only of you all get involved. so for those of you that are here and watching at home, get involved and pick up the phone. you can go to our website to keep up with developments, sfpublicdefenderorg. we are creating initiatives around gangs and violence
reduction. and applying brain science to the law, and advocating for reform. this is a banner year for criminal-justice. we have the three strikes initiative. we limit it to only serious offenses. also, the ballot measure, the state measure which will eliminate the penalty. thank you, all of you for coming and for all the volunteers that made this possible. i want to thank the san francisco public library, every year they have provided us with a venue to do this event and also for sfgovtv for putting us on the tube. we will see you again. keep in touch. thank you. [applause]